PHOTO Souley Vegan's Black-eyed peas, sautéed mustard greens, yams, and corn bread. Photo courtesy Souley Vegan.
It’s easy to find veg meals in a health-conscious, food-friendly city like San Francisco. But the newest destination for vegetarians and vegans alike is actually across the bay, in Oakland. Over the past few years, Oakland has attracted a strong indie culture that is also seriously food savvy. And many of these newcomers have purely plant-based eating on their minds.
Here are some of the hippest places for vegan eats in that other city by the bay.
As the name implies, this down-home spot serves hearty, tasty vegan soul food. Adorned with murals of legendary Delta blues artists and with a soundtrack to match, it’s a great place to come with friends and fill up on dishes like black-eyed peas, sautéed mustard greens, BBQ tofu, mac and “cheese,” chik’n fried steak, delectable potato salad, and fried okra. Or, do like many Oaklanders do: Order takeout and head next door to enjoy a pint on the sunny deck at Beer Revolution.
301 Broadway, Oakland
The Olde Depot
Effectively creating a vegan corner on the edge of Oakland’s Jack London Square, The Olde Depot sits directly behind Souley Vegan, and serves vegan pub food and carefully selected, small-craft beers on tap. But this isn’t any ol’ pub grub. Think pickled shiitake mushrooms; a huge, warm salted pretzel served with house-made double IPA spicy brown mustard; chik’n or portobello sliders; and beer-battered onion rings with spicy chipotle dipping sauce. Pair with a good nut brown or Belgian white ale. Yum.
468 3rd St., Oakland
Encuentro Café and Wine Bar
The small-plates menu of this airy, stylish wine bar is always vegetarian and mostly vegan. The hard part is in deciding what to choose! So don’t. Go with a few friends, and try just about everything: amazing salads; daily bruschetta with delightful vegan toppings (like roasted cauliflower, spring onion and castleveltrano olives with lemon tahini); marinated mushrooms with smoked pecan pate, cornichon, prune chutney, and mustard served with crostini;and finger food like sweet/salty nuts or dates stuffed with macadamia nut pate. There’s even a vegan version of the popular cheese plate. A rotating selection of organic and biodynamic wines is designed to complement the menu.
202 Second St., Oakland
Pepples Donut Farm
This groovy little diner looks straight out of 1962. But you won’t find bacon and eggs here. Pepples boasts a menu of delicious vegan breakfast and lunch options, and, yes, donuts. Lots of donuts. Delicious, organic donuts with tantalizing names like Earl Grey Bergamot Orange Crème, Blueberry Cake, Meyer Lemon, Salt Caramel, Candy Cap, Mexican Hot Chocolate, and Whiskey Tangerine Fig Glaze. Go. Go early, before your-soon-to-be favorites sell out. (Pepples also has a stand in San Francisco’s Ferry Building.)
6037 San Pablo Ave., Oakland
Grand Lake Farmers’ Market
No visit to Oakland is complete without a Saturday morning visit to this bustling and beloved outdoor market. In addition to a huge array of produce from organic and transitioning farms across the state, a large section of the marketplace is devoted to tasty, (mostly) healthful, ready-to-eat fare.
A couple of veg and vegan spots in particular stand out:
Donna’s Tamales Makes delicious vegetarian and vegan tamales with organic white corn masa. The yam and black bean with roasted poblano chile is not to be missed.
Bolani’s East & West Gourmet Afghan Food Serves a selection of vegetarian bolani—pumpkin, lentil, spinach, and potato—with a variety of tasty chutneys and dipping sauces.
Liba Falafel Truck Offers delicious falafel sandwiches or plates, with a variety of tangy toppings.
Café Zambala Serves hot plates of hearty Himalayan stew and dumplings (mo mos), with vegan options.
Grand Ave. at Lake Park Ave.